CRN Exclusive: New Dell COO Read Laser-Focused On Enterprise Opportunity

Rory Read's Role

Before taking the job as Dell's COO and president of worldwide commercial sales, Rory Read considered his options. A gig in private equity seemed attractive to the 53-year-old tech industry veteran, but he jumped at the opportunity to take an exec role at privately held Dell, where he saw the kind of entrepreneurial energy he was looking for, and met a leadership team he describes as passionate and talented.

Read started at Dell Monday, and joins the company as it accelerates its enterprise business, expanding its hyper-converged product line and recruiting high-profile talent in order to go head-to-head with industry powerhouses and key competitors like Cisco Systems.

Now, as head of the company's sales operation, Read is tasked with supercharging Dell's go-to-market efforts, both direct and through the channel, where Dell makes about 40 percent of its revenue.

In an interview with CRN, Read, who is the son of an IBMer, and spent 23 years at Big Blue before a five-year stint at Lenovo and three years as CEO of AMD, said he's going to be thoughtful about partner relationships -- both new and established.

You own global go-to-market overseeing both direct sales and the channel. What is your vision for how Dell direct and the channel will work together?

There's no question that there's a synergistic relationship. It's all about the customer, and what our customers need has to be the arbiter. Some like to buy direct. Some like to buy from the channel. We want to give the customer the ability to satisfy their demands in a way that satisfies them. These solutions can work together, and partners see that emerging. Let the market find its level. There's no question that there's no cap on the solutions in which we can leverage the channel. Most customers leverage both direct and the channel. If that makes the best solution, if it's best for the customer, that's what we need to do. More than 40 percent of [Dell's] global revenue now comes through the channel. We'll go as far as the customers go.

Are you going to recruit partners from big competitors like Cisco, HP, Lenovo and IBM?

What's important is I have a long-standing relationship with the channel. It's important for me to spend time with end customers. Their buying patterns are a key driver in how we target go-to-market strategy. We have to touch base and talk with the channel at all levels. You've got to get your feet on the street and understand where they're headed, and we want to be smart about how we build the routes to market so we can offer the best solution at the best price. I'm not going to go willy-nilly and track a thousand partners. We want to be very thoughtful about how it links with the solutions we're providing. If you get the right partners in the right relationships, you do better. I want to have lots of partners, but it's about quality and picking the right partners. They want that too. That's where I'm going to spend a lot of time in the next couple of months.

Where do you see the biggest opportunity for making improvements that could grow channel sales?

There's been very good momentum over the past three or four years, and we're reaching a critical mass, a tipping point with Dell end to end. Clearly, there's an opportunity in the enterprise, integration. There's the ability for the channel to reach a whole set of partners across the world. Clearly, enterprise is a huge opportunity at Dell, and the market in the end-to-end solution model, and the converged compute model and in networking. This definitely opens up opportunities for our end-to-end solutions, and to accelerate that expansion. The channel is going to play a role in client, as well. There will be no player that can cover the robust set of offerings Dell can.

Where do you see the biggest partner coverage gaps in terms of the broad Dell portfolio?

I've talked to a lot of channel partners, and my focus is clearly around accelerating the progress that's been made today. Dell working with the channel is a better opportunity for Dell. If that customer wins, Dell wins. We're building trust with customers, and with partners. When they feel trust, they give it more resources and more time to create the win. We must continue to improve channel process, and channel tools. Those must be world-class. We have to make sure we have world-class tools and world-class programs to make it easy for partners to work with us. There's opportunity in terms of data center, enterprise, convergence of compute. Paul Perez [pictured] is going to get these solutions together. That's a key component of where we have to focus -- converged compute, software service, and an increasingly important role in networking. You're going to see us focus with the channel in that part of the enterprise.

What is your message to partners?

First, I would say thank you. They've been very receptive. We've only just begun to unlock the value we can create together. There's an opportunity for us to better serve customers with this relationship. I hear their messages about what we need to do around tools and processes.

What are your partners' top channel concerns?

I always think tools can be improved. You want to have world-class capability so it's easy to do business. And processes -- it's not just about applying tech, but streamlining. How fast can we turn around a bid? Can we get our tech support working well with their tech support? That will open up more opportunity. Also, programs: It's how they get a financial return, but it's also about how to set the right behavior. More education: Show me more about how Dell has the right solution across the network. That's a really important factor. They're also interested in where we can take this, and they want to make sure we do it in a way that's well-articulated. They want to build trust; they want to know the terms of engagement; they want clarity, consistency.